MSC MERAVIGLIA REVIEW
Large review from the perspective of a 32 year-old bachelor.
GENERAL CRUISE LINE OVERVIEW BEFORE WE BEGIN
This is now my 5th msc cruise, and 19th cruise overall.
I first sailed MSC in 2009 on the Poesia(1st cruise overall that I ever took)
2016 on the divinia.
2018 on the Seaside
2019 on the Seaview,
And finally this cruise in 2020 on the meraviglia.
I said it in 2016 when i sailed the divinia, that i thought the cruise line had come a long way since 2009 in catering to american audiences, and i’ll say that the line has come even further throughout the years.
My favorite line as a 32 year old male bachelor is celebrity. In an ideal world, i would only sail celebrity due to their gorgeous ships, consistently excellent cuisine, and exceptional service. However, since the introduction of the edge class ships in late 2018, celebrity has almost priced themselves out of my(and i assume most young professionals’ budgets) —especially if you like to cruise 3+ times a year like i do.
When msc developed the “seaside class” of ships, i found a less expensive, granted more european style of what celebrity tries to do... ***hence my escalation of taking 4 msc cruises in the last 4 years. Also, with celebrity’s escalating prices, i’ve noticed that less and less young people are sailing with them from my last two cruises. (once on the edge, once on the summit). If celebrity doesn’t cease escalating their prices, i think that they’ll become the newest version of holland america line. An old folks home on cool ships.
Out of sailing 5 different cruise lines since i began cruising 11 years ago, there is no doubt that msc is perhaps the most “controversial” line in varying opinions when it comes to americans. As many of you have probably read in other reviews, there are many americans who love it(like me), & a large minority who hate msc.
—there seems to be very little middle ground.
You need to understand something if you’re considering msc.
—this is not carnival or royal caribbean. There is no “guys burger joint” or themed park typed honky-tonk milkshake places on these ships. This is an italian line that makes no apologies for their glitzy-glamorous, and sometimes (over-the-top) decor, style, and attitude.
Their newer ships(including the meraviglia) are absolutely beautiful. Damn near stunning for a “regular” non-luxurious cruise line.
If you absolutely love carnival, chances are, you won’t care for msc. So, i encourage all of you to do as much research as you can before choosing msc.
About me and why i chose the ship.
Some background on me to begin. I’m a 32 year old heterosexual male bachelor. like many of my cruises, i sailed the meraviglia with my 77 yr old father who has some health issues. And although, it’s a cruise to spend some father/son time together as we live in different states, he usually goes to bed quite early, and i enjoy the night life well into the wee hours of the morning… so, inevitably it ends up becoming a “singles” cruise for me. Speaking of dad, although he can still slightly walk, he mostly uses a power chair to get around. The staff aboard meraviglia couldn’t have been nicer, or more willing to help whenever he needed it. That’s not only great credit to the their staff as professionals, but credit to them as human beings.
THE SHIP ITSELF
As mentioned before, i cruise a lot...and although i give celebrity and norwegian incredibly high marks for their newer ships, and how beautiful and modern that both of those cruise lines’ new ships are, the meraviglia is incredible(in terms of aesthetics and pure beauty). I’m young, and like glitzy/glammy modern ships. These incredible ships are another reason why msc has become a real player in the game. All of their newer ships are works of art. The meraviglia has three primary spaces in the interior. The 5th deck(serving as a bar, guest relations desk, and help centers).
The 7th deck, where most of the speciality restaurants, some bars, and the karaoke lounge are located (all of which is open-air balcony style gazing down on the 6th deck(galleria meraviglia).
And finally, the 6th deck which is the heart of the action with virtually all shops, most bars, excursions desk, the remaining specialty restaurants, the chocolate shop, and numerous other odd’s and ends are located. The 6th deck(known as the “galleria meraviglia”) is also the best view of the famed led ceiling that changes throughout the cruise, and has video demonstrations, artwork displays, entertainment clusters, and various other things that play. The galleria meraviglia is truly one of the most unique, and incredible interiors that you’ll see on any ship. I can only describe it as an upscale mall at sea.
The aforementioned 3 decks also feature the famed msc swarovski crystal staircases on the aft(back end) of the galleria. This area is basically 3 decks of mirrored bars/hangout spaces/ information desks(such as guest relations, photo areas, and the msc giftshop.) along with lots of live music, and beautiful hd digital screens of designs, artwork, etc...
This will be short and sweet… like pretty much all cruise ship cabins, it was small and served it’s purpose. I am a 32 year old, and although i always get a balcony room on any ship that i sail on, i can’t tell you that i ever spend much time in my state room other than to sleep and get dressed. But, for what it’s worth, the state room was very nice, and modern. The balcony was a very decent size and i enjoyed having a bloody mary or coffee on it in the mornings. You are on a cruise ship to have a good time, and be around other people, and get some sun. —you can’t do any of those things by staying in your room. I was on deck 14(mid ship)good location and easy to everywhere. My room stewardess was elvina from st. Lucia... She was awesome. Always was there when i needed something.
The pool decks on meraviglia are nice and spacious. There’s the main pool deck on 15 where the majority of deck chairs are located, along with the balcony style deck overlooking the pool on deck 16.
There’s also the yacht club pool deck on a small portion of deck 16. This is restricted to only yacht club passengers and will require keycard access to get in.
Then you have smaller areas for deck chairs on deck 18 above the pool, and near the kids area. There’s also the back pool deck located on decks 16, 17, and 18. This is an adult only area of the pool. Like most cruises, deck chairs fill up quickly with towel clips, bags, and magazines holding chairs for sometimes hours before they’re actually occupied. There is a decent amount of overcrowding on sea days.... Again, i don’t really know how msc could really address this, other than to recommend that you get out there earlier. The pool areas were very nice and are what you’d typically expect from a large cruise ship pool area. Lot’s of corner bars, and drink service around the pool as well.
CRUSIE CROWD DIVERSITY AND AGES ON MERAVIGLIA
Msc will feel slightly different if you’ve never sailed with them before.
If sailing out of an american port, you can expect probably the most diverse cruise crowd that you’ll ever experience.
Although I have no data to back up my numbers, I estimated that passengers aboard Meraviglia were of the following nationalities:
40% from the u.s., 30% european (mostly from italy, germany, and france), 15% latin american, 10% canadian, and 5% other(mainly asian).
The age range on meraviglia is also very diverse. Again without actual data, my observations would be the following:
45% Generation Y & Millennials (Born in the the 1980’s & 90’s)
20% Baby Boomers (56-74 yr olds)
15% Generation X (Born in late 60’s through 70’s)
15% Children (including teens, kids, and babies)
In my opening, i talked about celebrity pricing themselves out of the young professional crowd... If my numbers are somewhat accurate, you can see that this is helping to drive people like me to lines like msc.
*as i’ve mentioned several times, i’m young, and i found that there was a good number of millennial singles on the ship, as well as married couples, and others. Supposedly there were around 300 kids on the ship. —credit to msc for having kids/teens clubs... Because, if there were that many on the ship, i didn’t notice it....
Specialty Restaurants/Main Dinning Room/Buffet
My father and i ate at 5 specialty restaurants on board.
BUTCHERS CUT: A+
By far, the best specialty restaurant on meraviglia is “butchers cut”. I know that a lot of people may roll their eyes at fancy steakhouses now a days considering that they seem to be on every corner in our country. But trust me, you want to go and try this restaurant… my father who has been on 10+ cruises as well, and i both agreed that this was one of the best meals that we’ve ever had at sea.
I first tried “butchers cut” on the seaside, and also loved it then, as much as i loved it now. All different cuts of steak, with numerous choices of sides.
If you have a speciality dinning package, they’ll limit you to a choice of cut to either a filet or a strip, along with one appetizer, choice of two sides, and one dessert. If you want to sub a ribeye(like i did), they’ll charge you 1/2 the menu price of the steak, and let you finish out the package with all of the other dishes that i mentioned.
OCEAN CAY: B+
“ocean cay”. although the seafood was pretty good, and the atmosphere is very nice like most of their specialty restaurants, i’m from louisiana… so it’s hard for me to get any better seafood than what i eat at home. I had the yellow finned tuna, and my father had the lobster. Both were good. Not out of this world, but very good. They get the “b+” because the variety on the menu is not very extensive. Maybe 7-8 things total to choose from.
TEPPANYAKI HIBACHI: A-
If you’re an avid cruiser, many of you have probably had hibachi on a ship(probably even the teppanyaki brand).
As usual, the performance of the chef, the variety of meats and seafood, and the whole meal was excellent. The only reason that they didn’t get the a+ is because teppanayki is not included on any speciality dinning package. You have to pay for the meal straight up, period. A little cheap on msc’s part if you ask me.
CIRQUE du SOLEIL DINNER SHOW: A+
You’ll have either a meat option, seafood option, or vegetarian option. I chose the meat and it was a rack of lamb over garlic mashed potatoes. It was freaking orgasmic how good this meal was. Imo right there with “butchers cut” as the best meal on the ship. My father had the vegetarian option, and said that his was excellent as well. I highly recommend doing this dinner show as both entertainment and the quality of the food.
KIATO SUSHI BAR: C-
This was the only speciality dinning that i mostly didn’t care for. I had this on the final night of the cruise with a lady friend that i made earlier in the voyage. The sashimi(raw fish) was excellent and fresh. Unfortunately just about everything else was off. If you have the specialty dinning package, you have absolutely no control over your order. It’s a set menu of miso soup(which was cold and bland) , cooked rolls(like california style) which were mediocre at best, and green tea ice cream for dessert.
Had we actually ordered the rolls that we wanted to order, we would’ve paid $12-$15 per roll, and forgone my already paid for dinning package. In my opinion, it’s really a rip off of a specialty restaurant. Msc needs to re-toll the entire menu and make it more people friendly, and help people understand what they’re actually paying for. If purchasing a speciality dinning package, you get the least for your money at kiato. In addition to the food falling short, the sushi bar is located out in the main promenade under the giant led ceiling(sounds great right????) —unfortunately not. You’re right in the middle of the deck 7 off a major pathway of foot traffic, with blaring conflicting live music from each side of you(forward side with a live band, and rear side with a stringed quartet), and you’ll find yourself almost have to shout across the table in order for your dinner date to hear you. —i understand that there’s not really a way that they could fix the location, but it was one of the few structural things that i didn’t care for on the entire ship which kind’ve added to the already mediocre dinner.
Main Dinning Room: B-/ C+
We had “any time” dining due to our status with msc. However, we only ate in the main dinning room twice as we did five nights of speciality dinning. we were assigned to “olive d’oree”(one of three main dinning rooms on meraviglia). The food was average. Not great, not bad. I can say that it’s much improved from my early msc experiences minus the seaside(which was excellent). Using my chatting with other passengers/lady friend as a litmus test, you’ll hear mixed results when it comes to the main dinning rooms. This has been a problem for americans on msc for years. It’s almost like the one thing that they can’t seem to consistently get on par with other major cruise lines. It’s not terrible, it’s just not consistently good. For example, one of the nights, we had excellent service, but the food was below average. The other night, the food was great, but the service sucked. Again, pretty common on msc.
That’s why i lean more towards speciality dinning on msc than any other cruise line that i take.
THE BUFFET: A-
The buffet on meraviglia is pretty standard for what you’d expect for a buffet for all major sized cruise ships. We ate breakfast every day there, and had lunch there on sea days.
—contrary to what some people have written about the buffet, i found the variety to be pretty good. They had all of the american favorites such as burgers, hotdogs, and pizza. Plus, salad bars, pasta bars with assorted pastas and lasagna and ravioli etc... Plus they had a grilled section to where they would change it up from day to day with roast beef one day, pork tenderloin on another, and roasted chicken on other days etc...
***overall score for food when you add everything together would be a solid a- or b+ (i’m from louisiana... Trust me, if it was bad or unseasoned, I would tell you)
THE BARS AND DRINK PACKAGES
The best bar on the ship is the “sky lounge” on deck 18 overlooking the pool deck. It’s only open at night. It’s a very modern piano bar with a jazz singer. But what makes it stand out is the fact that it has the best bar tenders on meraviglia. Ask for mohammad, or henry from the philippines. Or raul from honduras. All three of which are the most decorated mixologists on meraviglia. All three have been with the company for over 10 years. This bar is elegant and not a party bar like others on the ship. The most fun party bar on the ship is called “the meraviglia bar”on deck 6 near the main theatre. This is where adult game shows and live bands typically are.
So, i’m a drink snob. And drink a lot. I assure you that whatever msc charges for their drink packages, i am not one of the ones that they make money off of... I always purchase the premium drink package for everyone of my cruises. The drink package that i purchased was $434 for the entire cruise(or $62 per day). But with my msc status, i got a 25% discount, saving me $108.50, so i actually paid $325.50.
Types of drink packages:
—non-alcoholic package ($203 total, or $29 per day). Covers all soda’s and energy drinks and is for people that don’t like have fun.
—easy package ($245 total, or $35 per day, covers drinks up to $6 per drink) i’d recommend this if you’re on a budget, but still want to drink lots of alcohol. This will include most mixed drinks with house liquor. Like cheap vodka, rum, bourbon, gin.
—premium package ($434 total, or $62 per day, covers drinks up to $12 per drink) this is for people that like patron, grey goose, higher-end rums, whiskeys etc... This also includes almost all frozen drinks, and speciality cocktails.
—premium plus package ($553 total, or $79 per day, covers all alcohol on board) there is only one reason why you would get this package, and that is if you want dom perignon, or significantly aged scotch, or super high end rare whiskey etc...honestly, i think going premium plus is a total waste of money, but thats just my opinion. If i thought it was worth it, i’d do it.
*one big tip on getting a “solo”drink package. If you’re in a stateroom with your spouse, and they don’t drink as much as you do... Msc will not let you purchase a premium package just for yourself. In other words, you can’t purchase a premium drink package just for you, and your wife purchase a non-alcoholic package or no package. They pretty much figure out what you’ll do, which is get the drink for you, and one for your wife. So on their website, they make you purchase two premium drink packages, or whatever your highest desired package is(almost like double occupancy). So online, there’s no way to purchase just one drink package if you’re room has two people.
***so here’s what you need to do as a hack around this, that i’ve done on my last 3 msc cruises. Call msc directly, and explain that your spouse or whoever is in the room with you does not drink. (whether you say health reasons, or whatever). They will let you purchase one drink package for yourself (figuring that they don’t want to lose out on selling at least one drink package). Then, you can grab the drinks for you and your wife, saving hundreds of dollars. Only msc can do this on the phone. You cannot get this done on the website.
You’re welcome! ;)
THE SERVICE IN GENERAL:
I’ve read tons of reviews of this ship coming into this cruise of people criticizing the staff over troubles with service. Ladies and gentlemen, i’m here to tell you that i mostly didn’t experience this other than one night in the main dinning room. —if i’m at my most critical, i would give the service a b+ or a-. If we ever needed something, it was taken care of in a timely fashion. The rare time that something was wrong, it was fixed in a timely fashion. One complaint that ive routinely seen on msc cruises is issues with staff that do not speak english. —i personally think that this has drastically improved over the past several years, particularly on caribbean based itinerary ships like the meraviglia and the seaside. Now, there is still a little bit of a language barrier... But the vast majority of the staff at least knows a little bit of english. If you find yourself in a rare situation to where someone cannot answer a question, simply ask another of the numerous abundant crew staff members who will be near.
ENTERTAIMENT ON BOARD: A+
As usual, in my opinion...this is msc’s strongest area(and always has been). Even going back to a very lackluster cruise on the msc poesia in 2009, the entertainment back then was good. Those italians can put on a show! The entertainment on this cruise was excellent. The shows from night-to-night are nothing short of sensational. Even the people who seemed to not enjoy this cruise remarked how good the entertainment was. Rather than to take it show by show, i can tell you that you will see a lot of broadway variety type of dancing, singing, and incredible acrobatics. The best show by far was “sonor” in the cirque du soleil theatre in the rear of the ship. —you will need a special dinner ticket, or to purchase a ticket to this show and you’ll get a free speciality cocktail as part of the show. All main theatre shows are free. I loved all of the main theatre shows as well. Every night, there’s a different full broadway style show. As is becoming customary on most cruises now, you will need to reserve your seat at 1 of the 3 nightly shows in the main theatre. You can easily change your seating times throughout the day. Most main theatre shows each night will be at 7pm, 8:30pm, or 10pm. —you’ll choose which time is best for you around your dinner schedule. You can do this from the “msc for me” app(which you can use anytime during the cruise) even without a wifi package...or you can make these changes on one of the numerous video touch screens throughout the ship. You can reserve all show times on day one, or decide which showtime you want to attend that same day.
WIFI ON BOARD B+
So i’m in management with my company, and i have to stay somewhat connected back home...although it’s mainly just to have it in case of a client emergency, or the occasional glance at email when i’m at the pool deck, or to have itunes available to work out in the gym. I had the unlimited wifi. When working, the wifi was pretty good. There were times that it was down for an hour here, or an hour there. But nothing bad. If you need it for netflix, or disney+ for your kids, i would download a bunch of videos before getting onboard. I don’t think the wifi would be very good for streaming. However, it was very good for social media, email, and googling.
So as mentioned before, i’m a bachelor and enjoy late nights on cruise ships. Msc does a great job with the variety of themed parties, as well as club atmospheres around meraviglia. There will be several themed nights on the cruise: including “white night”, 70 & 80’s party, tropical night, and 2 formal nights. Yes, that’s right, msc is one of the few lines that still has two dress-up nights in a week long cruise. Personally
I guess that i’m a rare traditionalist millennial when it comes to really liking this. I already wear a sport coat often to work, and that’s in south louisiana where it’s needless to say, quite warm for most of the year. I also enjoy when women take the time dress up. Cruising is the last romantic way to vacation. There’s something about going to sleep at 2am with a bottle in your hand in the middle of a beautiful ocean and awaking in an exotic location somewhere in the caribbean or mediterranean. All that being said, the dressing up is not super enforced on “elegant nights” as they call it. But, they will not allow men to wear shorts or jeans in any of the restaurants minus the buffet on this night. Women will mostly wear cocktail dresses, and heels.
The casino was nice, but lacked a good vibe...but i’m not going to be the best person to review this area as i’m not much of a gambler, and i’m allergic to cigarette smoke, and this was one of the few areas on the interior part of the ship that people are allowed to smoke. That being said, it looked really cool, and people seemed to be having a good time there.
As mentioned in my opening, msc has come a hell of a long way since i first sailed them in 2009. And this cruise was legitimately consistently good across the board. The food was very good, the service was very good, the drinks were very good, and the ship was spectacular. I will say it again that i do not understand why so many people have had issues with this cruise. If you are looking for a carnival walmart cruise, to where everyone weighs 400 lbs, and has 13 kids, then book carnival. This cruise line does not try to be that.
Bottom line, if you are thinking about booking this cruise, or have already booked it, and are apprehensive like i was because of some of the negative reviews, dont be! Keep an open mind! A cruise is what you make it. i have yet to find the perfect cruise, and the msc seaside is no exception. But i can tell you, that i had (c-)expectations, and had an (a+) time. Read Less